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This audio guide includes a general introduction and 16 commentaries on the Saint Louis Art Museum’s collection of German art. For the first time, eight narrators from the Museum examine a full range of modern and contemporary art from 1800 to the early 2000s.

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    AUDIO GUIDE TRANSCRIPT

    The audio guide transcript is available to view on your own device.

Introduction

  • Speaker: Brent Benjamin
    Barbara B. Taylor Director
    Saint Louis Art Museum

    Hello, I’m Brent Benjamin, Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum. It’s my pleasure to welcome you to Storm of Progress: German Art after 1800 from the Collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum. COVID-19 has disrupted most art shipping, and as a consequence, we have revised our exhibition schedule to develop this extraordinary show, which tells a 200-year story of German art drawing on the Museum’s holdings, a collection that is virtually unparalleled outside of Germany. The Museum’s collection of German art is unique for an American museum. It includes a strong focus on German Expressionism and the works of Max Beckmann as well as every major artist in German postwar and contemporary art, including such luminaries as Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, and Sigmar Polke. This unique civic treasure is a testament to the philanthropic support of our patrons, notably Morton D. May, and we celebrate that generosity by presenting Storm of Progress free of charge.

    This exhibition audio guide offers 16 expert commentaries. You will discover many different perspectives on German art narrated by the Museum’s modern and contemporary art curators. You will also hear from our curators of American art, decorative arts and design, and prints, drawings, and photographs, highlighting the collaborative nature of this collection and institution.

    German art has been exhibited in various ways at the Museum over the past decades, yet this is the first exhibition in our history to unite both modern and contemporary German works. Together, our curators will reflect on Germany’s unique history—including its industrialization, national unification, World Wars I and II and the Holocaust, the Cold War and its aftermath—and explore the deeply resonant themes that span art movements and time periods.

    We encourage you to experience this guide in any order you like; you may follow it chronologically or pick and choose. Each featured object can be located by following the floorplan on this webpage or by identifying the audio icon on the object’s label in the exhibition.

    Whether you’re listening from home or in the Museum galleries, I hope you enjoy this audio guide and your visit to Storm of Progress.

  • Gallery Text

    The Saint Louis Art Museum is home to a renowned collection of German art established through a series of transformative gifts and purchases. Assembled from this collection, Storm of Progress spans the years 1800 to the early 2000s, over two centuries when German art, politics, and history were inextricably linked.

    No one expressed this interconnection more clearly than the German Jewish cultural theorist Walter Benjamin (1892–1940), who inspired the exhibition title. Benjamin imagined history as a powerful storm—a storm of progress—whose winds propel humanity into an uncertain future. His concept captures both the devastation and hope seen in German art since the beginning of the 19th century.

    The exhibition presents more than 100 works of different media in chronological sections that explore key ideas and events. In the tumultuous 150 years before World War II (1939–1945), the territory of present-day Germany had five different governments. Culture, rather than nationhood, formed the basis of a collective German identity, and artists balanced a long history and rich traditions with rapid industrialization and a growing international prominence.

    After 1933, German artists were censored and persecuted under the fascist Nazi (National Socialist) regime. Some who could, fled. Those who stayed witnessed the horrific extent of Nazi atrocities. Six million European Jews were killed in the Holocaust, along with individuals from other groups including Romani, people with disabilities, Slavic peoples, political dissidents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, people who identified as LGBTQIA+, as well as others targeted by the Nazi genocide.

    Postwar German artists addressed the burden of this legacy, producing artworks that confronted the trauma of war and the memory of the Holocaust. Sometimes, their work provoked a German public not ready to face the recent past. After Germany’s division into communist East and capitalist West, art engaged with a Cold War landscape shaped by recent disaster and drastic political, social, and economic change. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 ushered in a new era during which artists embraced alternative media as they explored rapidly shifting popular culture and the globalized urban spaces of the emerging millennium.

    The exhibition contains imagery that could be disturbing to some viewers.

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